Hi. Today I will provide a water update. Some is good; some is not so good.
St Lucie River
Although the coronavirus and social distancing is hampering everyones’ ability to visit the St Lucie in large groups, the water in the St Lucie River -at least near the inlet- remains beautiful right now. If you have not been out, you can witness this blue water in photos taken by my husband and me on Saturday, April 4, 2020.
Lake Okeechobee. 11.70 feet.
The South Florida Water Management District and Army Corp of Engineers report Lake Okeechobee’s submerged aquatic vegetation, SAV, is really expanding the sun can reach the grass; this is fantastic for fish and wildlife and water quality, however the closely diked east side of the lake does not get the SAV benefit as it is too deep; the slight algae bloom reported there last week remains. We must be honest and recognize many people feel the lake is too low, but fortunately, there is little chance of discharges from Lake O to the St Lucie and this is a good thing.
~We must note that today the SFWMD made a call for water conservation as much of South Florida is very dry.
LOOKING BLUE! ST LUCIE RIVER AND INDIAN RIVER LAGOON BETWEEN SEWALL’S POINT AND SAILFISH POINT, AN AREA KNOWN AS THE SAILFISH FLATS. SEAGRASS SLOWLY RETURNING. 4-4-20 JTL/EL
ST LUCIE INLET AS SEEN FROM ATLANTIC
Submerged Aquatic Vegetation has greatly improved in Lake Okeechobee; this is great news. The grasses are located in shallow areas but not along the eastern edge where S-308 opens to the St Lucie. The lake is 730 square miles, topography varies. The lake was reported by the ACOE to be 11.70 feet NVGD on 4-6-20. Areas along the shallow western shore look like below.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE’S EASTERN SHORELINE, 5000 FT. THIS SHORELINE WAS DIKED CLOSE IN, THE EDGE IS DEEP SO NO SAV GROWS HERE. 4-4-20JTL/EL.
FPL COOLNG POND EASTERN SHORE, ST LUCIE CANAL or C-44 Canal. S-308 at Lake O. YOU DON’T SEE ALGAE FROM THIS FAR UP. JUST A SHADE OF GREEN.
KISSIMMEE RIVER ENTERS LAKE O. LAND EXPOSED DUE TO LOWER LAKE LEVEL. PRETTY HERE. 4-4-20 JTL/EL.
Below: THESE PHOTOS WERE TAKEN THE FOLLOWING DAY, SUNDAY,4-5-20 ON THE GROUND CLEARLY SHOW BLUE GREEN ALGAE ALONG THE EASTERN SIDE OF LAKE OKEECHOBEE AND THE S-308 STRUCTURE THAT ALLOWS WATER INTO THE C-44 CANAL FOR AGRICULTURAL IRRIGATION.
AT THIS TIME NO WATER FROM LAKE O IS GOING THROUGH S-80 AT THE ST LUCIE LOCKS AND DAM TO THE ST LUCIE RIVER. WE WILL CONTINUE TO REMEMBER THE ALAGE BLOOMS BROUGH ON BY LAKE O IN 2016 AND 2018 AND KEEP OUR EYE ON LAKE O.
EASTERN SHORELINE OF LAKE O ALGAE IS APPARENT! VERY DARK WATERS.
SITTING ON ROCKY SHORELINE OF EAST LAKE OKEECHOBEE, SUGARCANE BURNING BEHIND ME, ANCIENT SHELLS IN HAND. ~Photo Ed Lippisch
WALKING THE EASTERN SHORELINE OF LAKE O (VIDEO)
SHELLS ALONG AN EXPOSED BEACH DUE TO LOWER LAKE LEVEL
BLUE GREEN ALGAE INSIDE S-308 STRUCTURE/C-44 CANAL
INSIDE C-44 NEAR A CULVERT
LOOKING OUT OF THE C-44 CANAL TO OPENED S-308 STRUCTURE FOR BOATS
BACK OF S-308
LOOKING SOUTH WEST, LAKE O. THE S-308 STRUCTURE IS TO THE LEFT OUT OF PICTURE
ED AND OUR GERMAN SHEPHERD LUNA LOOK ON
Thank you to my brother Todd Thurlow for his web site http://www.eyeonelakeo and thank you to my husband Ed Lippisch for being on this journey with me for the past twelve years. Onward!
*Friend Paul Millar shared these photos of S-308 today, 4-6-20 3:30pm, so this post is now very updated. Thank you Paul!
First of all, let’s recognize that we are stressed out enough social distancing due to the coronavirus. Nonetheless, for our waters, we must pay attention on every front. Right now, the St Lucie River and nearshore reefs are absolutely beautiful, and there is not a threat from Lake Okeechobee or area canals as it is not raining very much. Lake Okeechobee is at 11.85 feet NVGD, therefore, the chances of discharges into the St Lucie River are basically none. If another Hurricane Dorian comes this summer, that could be a different story.
We know our waters suffer from nutrient pollution overdose. Thankfully the State Legislature under the leadership of Governor DeSantis is now paying attention. It will take some time for the bills passed this past legislative session to bear fruit and some will need to be expanded, but when it comes to our waters we are in a better position politically this year and last year than in recent years.
Nonetheless, we must continue our advocacy and continue to document.
The above Jacksonville Army Corp of Engineers map distributed during the March 31, 2020 Periodic Scientist Call shows how much water is going where from Lake Okeechobee. One can see that water for agricultural irrigation is being sent east into the C-44 Canal via S-308; at 191 cubic feet per second. This is fine, and I hope all the water users get the water they need, but algae blooms in our waters is a concern for me.
So to get tho the point, today I share my husband, Ed Lippisch and friend, Scott Kuhns’ flight photos taken today, April 2, 2020 around 11:00am. The aerials show the beginning of an algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee near the S-308 structure at Port Mayaca (Ed said it appeared much brighter than in the photos) as well as clearly in the C-44 Canal near the FPL retention pond and its structure S-153.
Continuing to fly east, there appears to be no algae at S-80, St Lucie Locks and Dam further down the C-44. Keep in mind, the water that is going into the C-44 canal via S-308 at Lake O, Port Mayaca is not going east through S-80 but being used before it gets that far for water supply in the western part of the almost 30 mile C-44 canal.
~Confusing, I know! The C-44 is long and has multiple abilities.
Here are the aerials, as long as possible, we will continue to document the St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee.
BELOW: LOOKING EAST OVER LAKE OKEECHOBEE, FPL COOLING POND VISIBLE
BELOW: FAINT GREEN ALGAE CAN BE SEEN NORTH OF S-308 ALONG SHORELINE OF LAKE OKEECHOBEE FROM 2000 FEET.
ALGE NORTH OF S-308 and RIM CANAL LAKE O
BELOW: ENTRANCE OF S-308 AT LAKE O GOING INTO C-44 CANAL
BELOW: S-80, St Lucie Locks and Dam, further east along the C-44 Canal, no algae visible
I have been wanting to write about these water quality maps for months. Now that I am at home, social distancing, due to the coronavirus pandemic, I have no excuse. So today, we begin.
Some history: about six months ago my brother, Todd Thurlow and Dr Gary Goforth started collaborating to create nutrient pollution color coded maps. The data is compiled by Dr Gary Goforth via South Florida Water Management District’s DBHydro water quality database; and the graphics are generated by Todd. All of these computer generated images can be found on my brother’s website, eyeonlakeo. This is a site you are probably familiar with as it led the charge on Harmful Algal Bloom Lake O satellite imagery before that went public in 2018. My goal is to do the same with these maps. In time, have them “go public.” The form this data exists in the District’s reports today is very sophisticated and thus confusing for the general public. With help from Gary, Todd, and a former eighth grade teacher, (me) it doesn’t have to be!
So let’s start with overview color. Basically, any color other than green is a flashing light, especially orange-red, or dark russet!
When looking at these maps, one must keep in mind that the map is in WATER YEARS. A water year begins on May 1 of a year and goes through the following year ending April 30th. The above map labeled “Lake Okeechobee Watershed Total Phosphorus Concentrations,” is Water Year 2019. (May1, 2018 – April30, 2019.)
Next, one must learn to think in terms of SUBWATERSHEDS and BASINS. The image above is for the entire 3.4-million acre watershed of Lake Okeechobee, and is broken into sub-watersheds and basins from large to small based on the way the water “flows” or used to. The sub watersheds are identified in bold in the table to the left and the basins are listed below.
The colors on the map are shown by scale at the bottom from green to dark red. You don’t have to be a genius to see that for instance S-154 Basin is one of the darkest color reds with a concentration of 857 “µg/L” (microgram per liter, commonly expressed as “parts per billion”, or “ppb”). In 2001, the State of Florida established a Target for the average phosphorus concentration in water entering Lake Okeechobee of about 40 ppb, so this basin’s concentration of 857 ppb is 21.4 times the Target concentration for the Lake; hence this basin has a “Target Multiple” shown in the table of 21.4.
The color coding gives you a quick and easy way to identify which basins are close to the target (green basins) and which basins need a lot of improvement in their non-point source controls (red basins). For a more quantitative assessment, you can check out the “” values in the table for each basin. It’s important to remember that while concentrations are very important to identify which basins need additional non-point source controls, such as farming or urban best management practices (BMPs), the “load” entering the lake from each basin is also important. We’ll talk about loads in a future blog. Now let’s take a look above at map number two, the “St Lucie Estuary and Watershed Total Nitrogen Concentrations” map. Nitrogen is the other important nutrient besides phosphorus that affects our water quality, including algae blooms. Since we already know now how to interpret the color coding, we can easily see that the Tidal Basins – the largely urban areas around the estuary – has the lowest nitrogen concentration, i.e., the Tidal Basins has the best nitrogen water quality. The Tidal Basin had a concentration of 824 ppb, and with a Target Multiple of 1.1 this concentration is still about 10% higher than the Target set by the State of 720 ppb. So while this basin has the best nitrogen levels in the watershed, it still has some improvements to make in order to meet the nitrogen Target. By contrast, Lake Okeechobee discharges, and runoff from the C-23 and C-24 basins are the darkest red and therefore have the poorest water quality, with nitrogen concentrations about 2 times the Target. The orange to red colors for these and the C-44 and Ten Mile Creek basins indicate these basins need to implement considerably more effective source controls in order to meet the Target for the Estuary.
Todd’s website and Gary’s (http://garygoforth.net/Other%20projects.htm) show phosphorus and nitrogen maps for the Lake and St. Lucie Estuary watersheds. They are working on maps for the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary Watershed.
In closing, these powerful visual maps give us the ability to easily “see” where the greatest problems of nutrient runoff are located; the nutrients come from many sources, including urban and agricultural activities, e.g., fertilizer application. And although the numbers and colors don’t tell us exactly where this pollution is coming from, we can determine it is problematic in the designated basins.
That’s enough for our first day. Hope it was a good one!
When I took this photo recently at a South Florida Water Management District meeting, I thought to myself “score!” It is a rare thing to see all in one place, the latest changing of the ACOE guard.
As we know, the Army Corp of Engineers, Jacksonville District, changes out its leadership top positions, almost like clock-work, every three years. I say “almost” because Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds stayed for four years during a time of change and controversial issues like toxic algae being discharged into the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and the beginnings of the updating of LORS (Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule) to LOSOM (Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual: https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/) . Acronyms aside — “how Lake Okeechobee is operated” being updated –now to possibly include considerations for cyanobacteria and human health.
Today we set our issues aside to welcome Lt. Col. Todd Polk who has now officially replaced Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds. (Col. Kelly has another two years.)
In case you have not met him already, as he has been being phased-in for a couple of months now, we welcome Lieutenant Colonel, US Army Deputy District Commander, South Floria, Todd F. Polk, PMP!
You can read his impressive bio below. HIs email is firstname.lastname@example.org should you like to welcome him too!
Lt. Col. Todd Polk joined the Jacksonville District as the Deputy District Commander for South Florida, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in August 2019. He oversees the planning, construction, and operations of Corps projects in central and south Florida. Polk joins the Corps from the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Drum, New York. While at Fort Drum he served in two positions, most recently as the Chief of Engineering and Design Branch for the Department of Public Works, and Chief of strategic and community planning for the Plans, Analysis, and Integration Office. In 2016-2017, Polk deployed in support of the U.S. Military Observation Group previously serving on the Force Headquarters Staff for the United Nations’ Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Prior to his deployment to Africa, Polk was a Project Manager for Military Construction and Sustainment and Restoration projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District, 2015-2016. His previous assignments include the Executive Officer for the 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion (Airborne), 4th Infantry Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (A), Fort Richardson, Alaska from 2014-2015; and, Brigade Engineer and Chief of Plans, 4th Inf. Bde., 25th Inf. Div. (A), Fort Richardson, Alaska from 2013-2014.
Polk’s earlier assignments include Battalion Operations Officer, Executive Officer, and Observer-Controller/Trainer for the Sidewinder Team, Operations Group, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California from 2010-2012. Brigade Engineer for the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), 10th Mountain Division (Light) in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) 10, and A Troop Commander, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry in Logar Province, Afghanistan, OEF 9-10, in 2009, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop Commander, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry, 3rd IBCT, in OEF 6-7, Kunar Province from 2006-2007. G-3/5/7 Operations Officer 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York, from 2004-2005. Battalion Maintenance Officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Executive Officer and C Company Platoon Leader, 65th Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division (L), Schofield Barracks, Hawaii from 2000-2003.
Polk was commissioned as an Engineer Officer in 1999 from the University of Kentucky. He holds a Bachelors of Arts in Communications from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, and a Masters of Arts in Public Administration from Webster University, Saint Louis, Missouri. His military Education includes the Engineer Officer Basic and Captains’ Career courses; Combined Arms Services and Staff School; Army Command and General Staff College; Airborne, Air Assault and Ranger courses; and, Joint Planner and Joint Fire Power courses. He is a registered Project Management Professional.
His military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC), the Meritorious Service Medal (3 OLC), the Joint Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal (5 OLC), Meritorious Unit Citation (1 OLC), Army Superior Unit Award, Airborne Badge, Air Assault Badge, Combat Action Badge, Ranger Tab, and the Bronze Order of the de Fleury Medal.
Polk is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is married and has two children.
My husband, Ed, was able to fly the Baron yesterday. As the plane has been in service, we have not taken photos of Lake Okeechobee or the St Lucie River from a higher altitude in almost two months.
Because the satellite images have been showing Lake Okeechobee’s bloom lessening, I wasn’t sure what Ed would find. Well, he found a large blue-green algae bloom right outside the gates of Port Mayaca at S-308.
On his way back to Stuart, he also took pictures of the St Lucie Inlet showing plentiful seagrass recovery near the Sandbar at the confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the ocean/river looking blue and inviting ~ not like the black coffee sediment and toxic nutrient-filled discharges seen recently in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
I am thankful to the ACOE and all involved for this summer’s reprieve. The Saint Lucie River really needed it!
We must keep in mind that with all of the recent rain, of course, Lake Okeechobee is rising. Today lake is at 12.99 feet. Hopefully, in the coming and most active months of hurricane season, there will not be a tropical system that could rapidly increase the lake level. In years past hurricanes have brought as much as three or four feet. There are many factors, but usually, the ACOE starts releasing at 15.5 feet to protect the Herbert Hoover Dike’s integrity and those living south and in the shadow of our diked lake.
Humans may have figured out how to “control” the state’s water, but Mother Nature holds the final card.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE AT PORT MAYACA AND LAKE O’S N.E. RIM SHOWING ALAGE BLOOM. IF S-308 were open, this bloom and freshwater that sustains blooms would be pouring into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Photos by Ed Lippisch 3-18-19.
Looking toward Lake Okeechobee at S-80, A.K.A. “The Seven Gates of Hell.” These gates can be opened by the ACOEO to discharge water from Lake O into the St Lucie River. Photo Ed Lippisch 8-18-19.
ST LUCIE RIVER/INDIAN RIVER LAGOON AT ST. LUCIE INLET showing nearshore reefs, blue waters, and recovering seagrasses ~even with high local rains and discharges from canals C-23, and C-24. This area between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point was once considered the most bio-diverse in North America. This year, 2019, there have been no discharges from Lake Okeechobee allowing the area to begin to recover from years of destructive discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
Dr Goforth (http://www.garygoforth.net/Other%20projects.htm ) is a familiar and trusted friend in our fight to protect the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Today, I am sharing his comments made during the development of the Basin Management Action Plan for the St Lucie River; and also his easy to read charts presented at the June 10, 2019, SFWMD Northern Estuary Workshop. It is my hope, that my very oversimplified post from yesterday can be complemented by Dr. Goforth’s input.
From Dr. Gary Goforth, Ph.D
Subject: Estuary Water Quality Protection, July 8, 2019
Looking forward to a productive workshop on Wednesday…
2. Subject: RE: Estuary Water Quality Protection, July 12, 2019
Thank you for a very productive workshop Wednesday on water quality and its impacts to the northern estuaries.
I’ve been asked for copies of the documents I held up during my public comments. These were developed pursuant to the 2007 Northern Everglades and Estuary Protection Program (NEEPP), and were to serve as the technical foundation for an expanded Works of the District (Rule 40E-61) regulatory program administered by the SFWMD. These documents summarize the most comprehensive analyses of water quality and hydrology for the Lake Okeechobee and estuary watersheds. These were presented to DEP during the development of the BMAPs – but DEP chose not to take advantage of them. Even worse, prior SFWMD management worked with an agricultural lobbyist to remove all references to these documents from the 2015 SFWMD annual environmental report (“In 2014, South Florida water managers were on the verge of an agriculture pollution crackdown, but at the last minute reversed course. TCPalm obtained emails that show how a lobbyist influenced water policy. The South Florida Water Management District changed course immediately after a Dec. 3, 2014, meeting with U.S. Sugar Corp. lobbyist Irene Quincey, eventually halting its planned policy in favor of a plan that takes polluters at their word and holds no one accountable if water quality suffers.” http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/08/30/u-s-sugar-lobbyist-influence-over-florida-water-pollution-rules/464671001/).
They can be downloaded from the following links; I’m sure staff could provide hardcopies (they’re several hundred pages in length).
excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water, frequently due to runoff from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life and death of animal life from lack of oxygen.
Although once known for her great life and beauty, modern-day Lake Okeechobee, has been dying for years…
Since the early 1970s, scientists were forecasting the imminent demise of the huge lake due to the tremendous influx of fertilizers and waste (oddly termed “nutrients”), especially from the Kissimmee River. The river had been channelized in the 60s, made straight, for flood control and the “benefit” of creating more agricultural lands. This was done by none other than the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and, of course, supported by Florida politicians.
All of these problems were one of the reasons that Florida politicians reversed course and took action in the 1970s to do something for the environment. According to the book River of Interests “during the 1972 legislative session, the Florida Legislature passed several land and planning measures, including an authorization of a major study on eutrophicationof Lake Okeechobee.”
Although, I could not find any of the original reports of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, (the original name of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – God forbid we say the word regulation!), I did come across the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Eutrophication Survey of 1977.
Nonetheless, there have been positive changes in the characters!
A huge thing that has changed is that the Belle Glades sewage treatment plant, that once discharged into the Hillsborough Canal and was back pumped into Lake O, ~approximately 1/3 of the year, no longer does. This is no surprise. When I was a kid in Stuart in the 70s, there were still houses along the Indian River Lagoon that discharged sewage directly into the river! GROSS!
So I guess the plot has changed bit, but not enough yet to save Lake Okeechobee. We need to change the channel and do what we have known we need to do since I was ten years old…
You can read the full 1977 report at this long link below:
Sometimes the history of the Everglades is really confusing. Why, with all of the environmental advocacy, since the 1970s, does the health of our environment remain crippled? One way to simplify it is to think in terms of before and after the 1947 U.S. Central and South Florida Plan. Of course there is extensive history before 1947, but it was after 1947 that things in South Florida’s water world became culturalized, compartmentalized, and legally defined. Before we talk about this 1947 Central and South Florida Plan, let’s review some important highlights pre-1947.
1. Hamilton Disston begins the drainage of Lake Okeechobee (1881)
2. Governor Napoleon Broward hires U.S.D.A. scientist James Wright who determines that “eight canals would indeed drain 1,850,000 acres of swampland” (1904)
3. The U.S. Congress’ Rivers and Harbors Act includes significant funds to deepen the manmade Hamilton Disston connection of the Calooshahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee (ca.1910)
4. The scandal of James Wright (from #2 above) who was deemed “a fraud” for the failure of the land to drain as expected ~causing the slump in swampy real estate sales (1914)
5. The resurgence of confidence in sales and a 1920s real estate boom fueled by advances in soil science, and the success of agricultural start-ups located in Moore Haven, Belle Glade, and Clewiston south of Lake Okeechobee
6. Land in a defined “Everglades Drainage District” more fully being systematically cut into sections for development with canals draining agricultural fertilizers and other chemicals into the waters of the state (1924)
6. Two very powerful hurricanes causing thousands of deaths and the destruction of property, and thus the state’s “call for a higher dike” (1926 and 1928)
7. The state’s reaction to the hurricanes, the 1929 establishment of the “Okeechobee Flood Control District” for the “Everglades Drainage District” as well as the Federal Government’s Army Corp of Engineers taking over “field operations”around Lake Okeechobee ~including the building of a thirty-five foot earthen dike and ingeniously using navigation funding to build the cross-state-canal, connecting the Caloosahatchee and the St Lucie Estuaries to Lake Okeechobee ~conveniently working as discharge-escapes through those estuaries when “necessary”
So, as we can see, a lot happened pre-1947, but it was what happened after, were things really changed…
In 1947 it rained and rained, and there were two hurricanes. From Orlando to Florida Bay the agricultural and developed lands, that had been built in drained, once marshy, swampy areas, really flooded, and in some places a foot of water sat for months. There was great economic loss.
The crying cow booklet, above, was sent to every member of the U.S. Congress.
To fight Florida’s destructive “flood waters” the 1948 U.S. Congress adopted legislation for the CENTRAL AND SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT, a twenty year flood plan from Orlando to Florida Bay that included the formal creation and protection of the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake O, the Water Conservation Areas, intertwined with thousands of miles of canals and structures to control the once headwaters and River of Grass. HOUSE DOCUMENT 643 – 80TH CONGRESS (00570762xBA9D6)
Next, mirroring the same terminology the United States Government had used (the Central and South Florid Project) the state of Florida created the “Central and South Florida Flood Control District” to manage that CENTRAL and SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT. A bit confusing huh? A tongue twister. And in a way one could say, at that time, the Central and South Florida Project and the Central and South Florida Flood Control District “became one.” The overall goal above all other things was flood control. And this marriage of the Central and South Florida Project and the Central and South Florida Flood Control District was successful at controlling the waters, but it also killed the natural environment, thus Florida herself.
This embedded cultural philosophy of “flood control only” was challenged in 1972 with the birth of the national environmental movement, and a consciousness that the natural system that supported Florida’s tourism, quality of life, agriculture, not to mention valuable wildlife, was in tremendous decline.
“Eager salesman from the Florida Fruit Lands Company crossed the country, promoting the Everglades as a “Garden of Eden”, a “Tropical Paradise,” “The Promised Land”. These “swamp boomers” enticed potential buyers with sales literature quoting government officials who extolled the possibilities of the Everglades…”
For years, Ed and I have flown over the Bolles Canal, just south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area, and for years, I wondered who the east/west canal in the EAA was named for…
Just goes to show, even if you become famous, or even “infamous,” over time, chances are, even people who should know your name may not have a clue…
Like Hamilton Disston, Richard “Dicky” J. Bolles was a millionaire of the late 1800s and early 1900s set up to help Florida get out of debt and grow an empire out of this “swamp.”
We get the picture here:
“Bolles founded the first of his Florida enterprises, the Florida Fruit Lands Company, to dispose of 180,000 acres in Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The company divided the lands into 12,000 farms of varying size and designated a townsite, ‘Progreso’, with plans for streets, factories, schools, churches, and public buildings. For the price of $240, a buyer could purchase a contract from Florida Fruit Lands Company, entitling them to bid on a farm and town lot through a scheduled auction. This same scheme was employed by other sales ventures pitching swamp land in Florida, including Okeechobee Fruit Lands Company, which dealt in Bolles’ remaining 428,000 acres around the shores of Lake Okeechobee….
Eventually, Federal prosecutors initiated a case against Bolles and his cohorts, producing a 122-page indictment and more than 100 witnesses from across the country. Bolles was arrested on December 18, 1913 and tried the following March — he was found to be “an honest man”… ~Library of Congress, http://everglades.fiu.edu/reclaim/bios/bolles.htm
It’s fascinating to look at the Okeechobee Fruit lands map and imagine what would have happened, what could have happened, if Dicky J. Bolles had been successful in his underwater private swampland “scheme.” Look at his plan for this multicolored plat map!
Instead over time, the Great Depression set in, and the Federal Government, ACOE, came in just over a couple of decades later to help save us from Mother Nature and from ourselves, creating unified protections of the EAA under the 1848 Central and Southern Florida Plan, House Document 643.
“Death by Fertilizer” or “Our Sick Friends” was originally a booklet created by the River Kidz in 2012 to bring awareness to the ailing health of the bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon; I think the message remains a relevant teaching tool today.
South Florida’s water issues~
~The Lake Okeechobee Watershed: 88% agricultural in nature running into a now sick, eutrophic, algae-ridden, Cyanobacteria filled Lake; a 700,000 acre Everglades Agricultural Area south of the Lake allowed to back bump when flooding occurs; all this water, in turn, discharged into the ailing St Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee Estuary by the ACOE while the SFWMD and FDEP, and their bosses, the Executive and Legislative branches of government look on. This putrid, polluted water runs out into the ocean. We think that’s the end of the water destruction, but it’s not, as red tide and seaweed are fertilized, growing into monsters we have never seen before.
Septic and sewer pollution is a type of fertilizer too. Some people around the world fertilize their crops with their own human waste; dog poop is also a “fertilizer,” and all this fertilizer leeches or runs off into our estuaries and ends up blending with the polluted Lake O water coming down the pike to the ocean. Every rain event runs right down the storm drains of our neighborhoods and shopping malls with all the “crap” it carries. We designed it that way, years ago, and have not changed this model. The fertilizer put put on our lawns, of course, runs off too.
Yes, it is death by fertilizer that we are experiencing this 2018. Eutrophication, Blooms of algae and cyanobacteria; red tide; too much seaweed suffocating the little sea turtles when they try to come up for air…
The fancy, confusing words of “nutrient pollution” must be replaced with “fertilizer,” something we can all understand. From the time we are children, we learn that “nutrients” are good, they make us strong. Fertilizer can be good, but we instinctively know it can also burn. We know not to eat it; it is not nutritious. Nutrient Pollution is an oxymoron created by industries and government so we have a hard time understanding what is going on.
In conclusion, fertilizer (phosphorus and nitrogen) from corporate agriculture; poop from animals and people, (mostly nitrogen) and it is feeding, “fertilizing” Lake Okeechobee’s cyanobacteria blue-green blooms that in turn are poured into the St Lucie and Calooshatchee, which in turn this year are feeding, “fertilizing,” tremendous sargassum seaweed blooms, and red tide in the Gulf of Mexico and now in the Atlantic. These blooms are giant multi-celled intelligent, organisms, kind of like a bee-hive. They are hungry and determined and we are feeding them. It is a vicious cycle that only we can stop by forcing our government to take charge and coordinate municipal, state and federal programs of education and coordinated implementation. We know what to do.
Developing an effective strategy for reducing the impacts of nutrients, easier understood as “fertilizer over enrichment,” requires all of us to change how we live and the powerful agriculture industry to lead.
Otherwise, it is, and will remain, death by fertilizer.
“Red tide was reported on the east coast in 2007 when it spread to the Treasure Coast south from Jacksonville where LaPointe said discharge from the St. John’s River may have aided its growth. LaPointe said this summer’s plethora of sargassum on southeast Florida beaches could feed red tide with a boost of nutrients leeching into the ocean when the seaweed dies.
Red tide is different from the freshwater blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, that has spread in Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie Estuary and the Caloosahatchee River this summer. But red tide and the cyanobacteria both thrive in nutrient-heavy conditions.
“You have discharges coming out the Jupiter Inlet,” LaPointe said. “Red tide likes the kind of slightly reduced salinity in areas where there’s a river plume.” https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/crime–law/new-stretch-beach-jupiter-closed-police-after-odor-sickens-beachgoers/cVD3CBHqrYDrLCFFDV4T7L/
Recently a gigantic swath of dead mangroves, east of the Indian River Lagoon on Hutchinson Island in Jensen Beach was brought to my attention. About a year ago, I had noticed the dead forest of trees; however, with my full attention on toxic-algae, water-quality, or lack thereof, I had put this graveyard of walking trees out of my mind. Until I got a phone call a couple of days ago…
My contact, as many others, proposes fundamental changes, such as culverts or another small inlet between the barrier island and the IRL to allow more flushing and increase salinity, pointed out that the primary reason the mangrove forest died, post Hurricane Irma, was too much fresh water. He also noted that the toxic-algae, as bad as it is, is not the worst killer for our St Lucie River. The worst killer is an old enemy: too much fresh water from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. The fluorescent toxic algae has just “put a face” on the carrier, the real enemy, too much fresh water.
The St Lucie is an estuary (https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/estuary.html) and needs salt water to exist, also the microcystin toxin cannot survive in a brackish system. The constant discharges, from Lake Okeechobee especially, continually push fresh water through a once brackish system, poisoning it, and toxic algae is along for the ride…
I found this message a powerful tool in visualizing what has happened to our St Lucie River. The dead mangroves are indeed a metaphor for the entire St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon system: our lush seagrass beds have died and the water quality is terrible, leaving little or no wildlife.
We must remember, below our waters, too much fresh water has caused a dead forest too.
Below, I am including Martin County’s response to my inquiry about the dead mangrove forest as a matter of public interest and education.
This loss of mangroves at the JBI site prompted a serious investigation by the Mosquito Control and Environmental Resources Divisions. Given the large-scale mortality event, testing was conducted to rule out site contamination. Water quality testing was also conducted to determine dissolved oxygen, pH, salinity, and hydrogen sulfide levels. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, St. Johns Water Management District, Smithsonian, a local mangrove arborist and Ecological Associates Inc. were all consulted regarding concerns over the mangroves. The majority opinion was that heavy late season rain and high water levels were the primary cause of the mangrove mortality with hurricane stress and suspended solids associated with storm surge as secondary causes. Additionally, lack of species and age structure diversity contributed to the loss, more diverse communities are associated with greater resiliency. Areas in close proximity to the JBI show evidence of mortality caused by ‘ponding’ in which high freshwater levels result in the loss of vegetation.
Recommendations going forward are to improve hydrological connectivity through the installation of additional culverts, clear out channel sedimentation, and install spillways. These actions will improve water quality by allowing for more exchange with the IRL and also increase the discharge capacity of the south cell to prevent high water levels associated with heavy rain and storm surge. In order to accomplish these actions, a capital improvement plan for the site was tentatively approved by the board on April 10th, 2018. Additional funding opportunities will be sought for site improvements and the board granted permission on July 24th, 2018 for staff to pursue State Wildlife Grant funding from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
While funding opportunities are being sought, in-house activities have been pursued. Specifically, staff gauges have been installed to monitor natural tide conditions to allow for careful water level monitoring. The Project Engineer from Field Operations has put together a conceptual plan. A failed culvert is in the process of being replaced. Blockages along the perimeter have been identified and several have been cleared. Transects are being put in for vegetative monitoring. New growth can be seen within the JBI site, however, this is primarily restricted to the areas in closest proximity to the IRL. Culverts are currently opened to allow for natural recruitment and mosquito control is being accomplished through alternative means to allow the area to reseed.
Let me know if you would like to meet to discuss this.
Terry B. Rauth, P.E., Public Works Director, Martin County Board of County Commissioners
“Deep Well Injection” is a term uncommon at most dinner tables. However, it is becoming more so because the South Florida Water Management District has interest in creating deep well injection “Estuary Protection Wells” around Lake Okeechobee. These wells would “lessen discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries,” hence the name. Of course there is a spin factor here as Estuary Protection Wells sounds better than Deep Well Injection that has a negative connotation, in spite of its popularity in the state of Florida.
So what is deep well injection?
In the 1930s the petroleum industry pioneered the technology, injection of liquids (produced brine from their processing) into underground formations. Over time, this procedure was adapted to many other forms of waste byproduct. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website, as the popularity of injection wells expanded, the Federal Government set protections. In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop regulatory requirements to control underground injection. These regulations are called underground injection control rules (UIC) and continue to regulate safety of drinking water throughout the United States today. (EPA: https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1988/0477/report.pdf)
For the Environmental Protection Agency deep injection wells fall into six categories:
Class I industrial and municipal waste disposal wells
Class II oil and gas related injection wells
Class III solution mining wells
Class IV shallow hazardous and radioactive waste injection wells
Class V wells that inject non-hazardous fluids into or above underground sources of drinking water
Class VI geologic sequestration wells
Interestingly enough, again, according to EPA’s website “approximately 30 percent of Class I wells in the U.S. are municipal waste disposal wells and these wells are located exclusively in Florida. It must have something to do with Florida’s geology, or the laziness of our state to want to clean up the water. (Sorry, I could not resist.)
You can see from the 2013 map below exactly where these wells are located; a number of them are located in Martin and St Lucie Counties. Partially treated grey-water or waste water is sent thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface into a “boulder zone” where there is space to hold it and it is “separated” by geological barriers from aquifers and surface waters. Generally it is believed this boulder zone is connected or has an outfall many miles out in the ocean and would leak ever so slowly, if it did at all, and in a time frame so slow it would be incomprehensible to humans…. Hmmm? (https://wasteadvantagemag.com/wastewater-deep-injection-wells-for-wastewater-disposal-industries-tap-a-unique-resource/)
So if the SFWMD is able to implement Deep Well Injection, it would not be unknown technology, it would be nothing new, nothing Florida isn’t already doing ~taking the easy way out…not cleaning the water on land…
Is it laziness, just more of the same, or something to consider as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is painstakingly implemented as mentioned in the **UF Water Institute Report of 2015?
Doing the right thing is not easy, however, in the meanwhile the estuaries could totally die. Purchasing the land, insuring funding from Congress every two years, dealing with stakeholders, enduring the slow-pace of the Army Corp of Engineer’s approval process, designing Storm Water Treatment areas that don’t make anybody mad, planting the new vegetation to clean the polluted water running from industrial farms and fewer municipalities into Lake Okeechobee without wrecking the environment for another animal like a poor gopher turtle, takes a lot more time and effort…
In fact, it might be decades before things are in place…
And this is why the South Florida Water Management is considering the wells. I will not say that I agree, but as I sit here surrounded by a dead, toxic-algae filled St Lucie Estuary, I will admit, I empathize.
When I was I kid, I loved to watch Looney Tunes. For some reason, my favorite cartoon was the story of “Michigan J. Frog,” the singing frog that would stop singing when its “owner” would take it out of the box to perform.
Although our St Lucie cyanobacteria issues are no performing frog, and are anything but funny, sometimes I do feel like I am in Looney Tunes. And most certainly, the singing frog analogy stands.
Recently, when some big-names came to visit our area to “see” the algae, I must admit, when it wasn’t, I wanted it to be there. This happened with famed conservation photographer Max Stone, and the next day with gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis’ ToxicTour with Congressman Brian Mast.
In both cases, just a day apart, we would be staring at an area famous for caked, stinking algae, photographed thousands of times, and the area would look “clean,” completely devoid of the thick green-blue mats. In a desperate attempt for credibility, I’d be showing Max Stone or Congressman DeSantis pictures on my phone displaying how the algae looked “just last week”….”just yesterday!” “See those grey lines on the seawall, they were blue!”
They believed me of course, they’d seen the national news, but it would have been so much more convincing if I had been able to show them the fierce algae face to face! AGGG!
But that’s not my decision. The algae comes and goes. And most important, thick or thin, it is always there. The particulate algae is just as bad as the mats, just not as emotionally charged.
And of course, the moment these big names left, just the next day in fact, the algae started coming back ~like these photos shared this morning by Mary Radabaugh from famed Central Marine in Rio.
Maddening! Isn’t it?
I guess the lesson is, and what we must know, and be able to explain, is that the algae, like the character Michigan J. Frog, during times when Lake Okeechobee is being discharged, the algae whether performing or not, is always there in the box/in the river. Only the cyanobacteria/blue green algae will decide if and when it will sing…
And it probably won’t when you want it to, and it probably will when you wish it would not…it is a living creature with a mind of its own in tune with temperature and nutrients (food) not thinking of people at all.
In closing, take Bathtub Beach yesterday for a final example, now closed due to cyanobacteria. The same thing! I went to visit after hearing the beach had been closed, but by the time I got there the tide and winds had pushed most of the cyanobacteria out to sea. But it was still there, just quiet. Looking closely, the particulate clumps were gathered at the shoreline waiting to perform. Be certain, the frog, one day, of its own accord, will sing.
“Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee,” photo essay by John Moran, August 2018
I reported last month on the plight of the Caloosahatchee River and its befouled waters flowing from Lake Okeechobee; delivering slime to waterfront neighborhoods in Fort Myers and Cape Coral along the way to the Gulf Islands of Southwest Florida.
Next up on our Summer of Slime photo tour is a visit to Stuart and Lake O…Stuart and environs is a glistening jewel born of water. It may well top the list of Florida cities in shoreline per capita. There’s simply water everywhere. Two forks of the St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon, canals and peninsulas and islands, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Stuart is pictured above; below is neighboring Hutchinson Island.
But it wasn’t Stuart’s reputation for abundant clean water that drew me south from Gainesville with my cameras. In effect, I’ve become a traveling crime scene photographer—and slime is the crime. A devastating outbreak of toxic algae has once again hit the St. Lucie River and the Treasure Coast, fueled by the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River basin to the north. Damaging headlines trumpet the story to the nation and the world and Governor Scott has declared a state of emergency. It’s déjà vu all over again.
My hosts in Stuart were water blogger Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and her husband, Ed Lippisch.
Ed took me up for a photo flight in his Piper Cub so I could get the big picture.
Seen from a small plane at 500 feet, Florida is a beautiful place.
Here’s Lake Okeechobee and the western terminus of the St. Lucie C-44 Canal. Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam has the capacity to discharge 14,800 cubic feet of water per second downstream to Stuart and the St. Lucie River Estuary, 26 miles away.
Sugar industry representatives say the water coming out of Lake Okeechobee is not the problem and that the algae outbreak in Stuart is primarily caused by Stuart’s own septic tanks and urban stormwater. This claim is contradicted by the extensive algae mats seen along the C-44 Canal between the Port Mayaca and St. Lucie Locks, well upstream from Stuart.
Lake Okeechobee historically drained south to Florida Bay, not east and west to the Atlantic and Gulf. The C-44 canal was built in 1916 to divert floodwaters to the coast.
A view of the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, several miles southwest of Stuart. On the day of my photo flight in late July, the dam gates were closed, visibly holding back algae from flowing downstream. Look closely and you can see what some people call The Seven Gates of Hell.
The St. Lucie Lock and Dam are an integral part of South Florida’s complex web of water management structures, born of an age when the Everglades was reviled as a watery wasteland and America was driven to drain it.
Below the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, in Palm City and Stuart, you can still find waterfront homes untouched by the algae bloom. But that’s no consolation for the thousands of Martin County residents whose lives are in upheaval once again this summer. The familiar pattern of algae outbreaks is fueled by fertilizer, manure and urban sources of nutrient pollution, including septic tanks.
All of this is compounded by denial and neglect by elected officials and agencies to whom we entrust the important work of environmental protection and public health.
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch took me on a driving tour of the C-44 Canal from Stuart to enormous Lake O, which is more like a stormwater treatment pond than a biologically healthy lake. “There are toxic algae blooms across the globe, but only one place where the government dumps it on you: Florida,” she says.
It’s not just the algae from Lake Okeechobee causing headaches along Florida’s east coast; the sheer volume of freshwater discharges is an environmental pollutant that overwhelms the estuary.
The Lake O gunk visible in the satellite view, above, is shown in the detail photo below.
Fishermen are still drawn to Port Mayaca. On the day we visited, I counted nine.
Dinner in hand (speckled perch), Felix Gui, Jr. has been fishing Lake O for 30 years. “The algae doesn’t affect the fish,” he says. “They eat the same, algae or no algae, and I haven’t gotten sick.” Experts have warned against eating fish exposed to the algae.
A Martin County Health Department sign at Port Mayaca warns against contact with the water but I saw no messaging about whether fish caught in these waters is safe to eat.
Enroute home to Stuart, Jacqui and I stopped at deserted Timer Powers Park on the St. Lucie Canal in Indiantown.
At the St. Lucie Lock, a surreal scene of impaired water, above, and a vortex of slime, below, waiting to be flushed downstream.
A pair of jet-skiers signaled for the lock to be opened, and another pulse of algae-laden water is released towards Stuart and the coast.
Wouldn’t want to anyway, thanks.
Further downstream, the algae spreads…
Nearing the coast, Rio Nature Park and the neighboring Central Marine in Stuart are slimed again. This was the epicenter of the infamous Treasure Coast algae outbreak of 2016.
Reporter Tyler Treadway of TCPalm gathered a sample of the polluted water from a canal behind the offices of Florida Sportsman magazine in Stuart.
Staff complaints of headaches, nausea and dizziness prompted Florida Sportsman publisher Blair Wickstrom to temporarily close the office in late July. “It smells like death,” he said.
The Shepard Park boat ramp parking lot in Stuart was nearly empty on the day we visited.
A man on a mission, Mike Knepper, above and below, posts videos on his Youtube channel documenting the degradation of natural Florida.
“It’s totally unacceptable to me what we’re doing to this planet because we’re very rapidly destroying it,” Knepper says. “My children and grandchildren will be paying the price for all the bad decisions we’re making today. I want to be able to look them in the face and say, ‘I tried to make a difference.’”
Dead-end canals along the St. Lucie River with their limited water exchange have been hardest hit by the toxic blue-green algae, which scientists refer to as cyanobacteria.
A growing body of medical research links exposure to cyanobacteria with neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s. Google it.
Meanwhile, we’re getting conflicting messages from officialdom. Martin County has erected signs warning against contact with the water but the Florida Dept. of Health website, under the heading How to Keep Your Family Safe While Enjoying Florida’s Water Ways, has this to say: “Cyanobacteria/ blue-green algae…are naturally occurring in Florida’s environment and are also found all over the world. They are part of a healthy ecosystem and help support a wide variety of aquatic life.” (http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/cyanobacteria.html) In other words, Lighten up, Florida. This is just nature being natural.
An open question remains: What will become of the value of the Florida brand when the world fully sees what we have done to our waters?
Even in disaster, strange beauty emerges.
Greg Fedele has lived in his water-front home since 1991. He grieves for his loss. “I have three kids who can’t enjoy the waterways of Martin County like I did growing up.”
The sign at Ocean Blue Yacht Sales in Stuart echoes a wide swath of community sentiment. Asked to describe in a word how the algae outbreak has impacted his business, president Bryan Boyd replied, “Horrible. The last three years, our bay boat sales have been a third of what they used to be.”
A roadside sign seen in Stuart in late July. If you’re wondering what you can do about the ongoing crisis of Florida waters, we are called to consider our own water footprint, learn about the issues and get involved. And never forget that elections have consequences. Vote for Clean Water. (https://www.bullsugar.org/#)
What we have here in Florida is not just a crisis of water, we have a crisis of democracy and civic engagement.
From the beleaguered springs of North Florida to the sickened rivers and coasts of South Florida, we must understand that no savior is waiting on the horizon who will fix this thing for us.
It took a group effort to create this mess and we need all hands on deck if are to reclaim our waters. Florida needs environmental patriots willing to face down politicians funded by wealthy interests who think nothing of sacrificing our public waters on the altar of their private profits.
We don’t have the luxury of time to get this right. We are losing our waters now. This is our moment. It’s time to set aside our differences and focus on what is at stake, for this is nothing less than a battle for the soul of Florida.
The pictures don’t lie. We the people of Florida bear witness today to nothing less than a crime against nature, and a crime against the children who shall inherit our natural legacy.
A long time ago, Florida political leaders—Republicans and Democrats in common cause—understood there can be no healthy economy without a healthy environment. They wisely enacted laws and regulatory safeguards accordingly.
But that was then and this is now. It’s time to end the popular fiction in Florida that we can plunder and pollute our way to prosperity.
Gov. Reubin Askew said it best when he declared in 1971, “Ecological destruction is nothing less than economic suicide.”
If you’re like me, you might wonder about the various satellite images in the news and on social media showing the cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, in Lake Okeechobee. What’s the connection between the colorized and the not? How do the scientists determine the colorized image? Where do they come from?
In this post, I share a link to my brother, Todd Thurlow’s latest creation, “NCCOS HAB Images.” This exciting site juxtaposes an experimental product of the National Centers for Coastal Science, NCCOS, being used to track Harmful Algae Blooms, HABs, in Lake Okeechobee, to NOAA True Color, or enhanced traditional satellite images.
The NCCOS images are referenced by The South Florida Water Management District, however, experimental. Experimental or not they are cool, tell us a lot, and they are interesting!
Before relying on a CICyano (Chlorophyll Cyanobacteria Index) image, scientists must first look at the “true color” version to determine if clouds or sunlight reflections have corrupted the data. Todd has made it easy for us to compare the NCCOS “Chlorophyll Cyanobacteria Index” pictures to the corresponding “True Color” picture. He processed hundreds of images, putting them side by side. Generally, if there are clouds on the right image, then the left image may not be so reliable. But if there are no clouds on the right, then the left image is a good indicator of algae.
This site is an awesome visual tool we can now reference as we continue to learn about HABs in Lake Okeechobee. Technology is a powerful path for connecting to a “better water future.”
Documenting the discharges, is critical whether by air, on the ground, or from outer space.
The two videos above were taken by me over S-308 at Port Mayaca, the opening from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River, and over S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam on Friday, July 20th, 2018. The satellite images below, my brother Todd Thurlow provided, were taken the same day.
It is clear that the blue-green algae/cyanobacteria, covering, at its height, 90% of Lake Okeechobee, has run its course and bloomed. Now, as the “flower falls,” we see what’s left.
As seen in the aerials, and what the satellite images cannot portray, is that the algae is still there just lessened. Flying out over the lake a light green algae film remains over the water, a pastel shadow of its once flourescent self.
The seven aerials at the end of this blog post were taken by my husband, Ed, this afternoon, July 22, 2018 around 4pm. The tremendous green shock is gone, but squiggly lines of nutrient bubbles remain, and blue-green algae visibly lines the eastern shoreline to be sucked into the gates…
Will another gigantic bloom arise? Another flower to replace the dropped blooms of yesterday? Only time shall tell…
One thing is certain. Nutrient pollution (Phosphorus and Nitrogen) is destroying Florida’s waters, and unless non-point pollution, especially fertilizer runoff from the agriculture community, is addressed, faster than Florida’s Basin Management Action Plan requires- pushed out 30 or more years, we are will be living with reoccurring blooms indefinitely.
Timely quote for thought by the late Mr Nathaniel Reed 1933-2018
“…The fact that the Department of Environmental Protection and the Everglades Foundation have at last identified every polluter in the vast Okeechobee headwaters is an astonishing feat. The sheer number of polluters is mind-boggling.
The failure to enforce the possibly unenforceable standard (best management practices) shines through the research as testament to the carelessness of our state governmental agencies about enforcing strict water quality standards within the watershed.
There is not a lake, river nor estuary in Florida that is not adversely impacted by agricultural pollution.
As one of the authors of the 1973 Clean Water Act, I attempted late in the process to include agricultural pollution in the bill, but the major congressional supporters of the pending bill felt that by adding controls on agricultural pollution the bill would fail.
Now, 54 years later, fertilizer and dairy wastes are the main contributors to the pollution of the waters of our nation. Algal blooms are all too common even on the Great Lakes.”
In my last post, I shared my brother Todd Thurlow’s “Lake Okeechobee Satellite Images 1972-2013.” Today, I am sharing his Lake Okeechobee Satellite Images 1982-2018.
In 1972, I was 8 years old…
In 1982, I was 18 years old…
A lot changes in ten years, and an extra-lot changes in the 100 years we have not taken good care of our state’s largest lake; this is now affecting millions of people and the remaining wildlife we have left.
Todd told me he did not “create by hand,” as I alluded to in my last post, but rather he used a USGS website tool to do it, and then converted, and loaded to YouTube, embed, etc.
In the last video the emphasis was on an a visible algae bloom in 1979, in this “video” the dates of algae blooms are not marked, but you can see clearly blooms towards the end as we reach 2018.
Unless something drastic occurs structurally, socially, and politically, I am sorry to say that we are doomed to have more and more algae blooms in the future.
~“The consequences of ignoring ecological planning and environmental protection could be economically devastating in a way not commonly foreseen.” Environments of South Florida Present and Past, by Patrick J. Gleason 1974.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE REGULATION SCHEDULE (LORS) http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portals/44/docs/h2omgmt/LORSdocs/2008_LORS_WCP_mar2008.pdf
The second she said it, I was at full attention. This past Tuesday, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Director, Ms. Rae Ann Wessel, spoke on the Army Corps of Engineers Periodic Scientists Call. In seven years of listening, in seven years of agency and public comment, I had never heard, seriously, and scientifically, someone address South Florida’s greatest taboo.
Ms Wessel said something like this:
Part of the LORS (Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule 2008) addresses “shared adversity.” Lake Okeechobee is approximately 470,000 acres. Would it be possible to put the water the Corps plans to release from the lake over approximately 484,000 acres of crop lands just south of the lake, rather than into estuaries? The Caloosahatchee algae situation is already at its absolute worst…
You could hear a pin drop…
Wessel was recommending options to the Army Corps and stakeholders regarding the ACOE restarting discharges to the estuaries. Since the previous week’s call, due to NOAA images showing 90% of the lake covered in cyanobacteria blooms, and crisis of algae in both estuaries, the Governor and other powerful politicians asked the federal agency to temporarily stop discharges considering all options before discharging, once again.
Just the previous day, before Wessel’s comment, after viewing the putrid algal mess in the Caloosahatchee, Gov. Rick Scott called for a State of Emergency encompassing seven counties.
Some history, earlier this year, the Caloosahatchee was almost begging the South Florida Water Management District and ACOE for water, but was denied. Now the Caloosahatchee is receiving so much water, with algae to boot, that they are experiencing a toxic summer similar to what the St Lucie experienced in 2016. The Caloosahatchee has had it especially tough this year.
The elephant in the room, or perhaps better described as the Tyrannosaurus rex in the room, is that with Lake Okeechobee over 14 feet, and the fact that we are now approaching the most turbulent part of hurricane season, the ACOE “has to start releasing again,” like now! And everybody knows this.
Therefore, Rae Ann was looking for options, for sharing adversity, and this was fair as the Calloosahatchee has bore most of the adversity this year. She wasn’t talking about flooding the cities in the EAA, she was inquiring about flooding the fields, by less than a foot of water that would evaporate quickly at that extension and depth, maybe stressing but not killing the crops. Sugarcane in particular, is a hardy and durable crop for intermittent periods of water.
Shared adversity… Certainly, the estuaries have have their “fair” share…
So why does the ACOEhave to dump to the estuaries? Why is it taboo to talk about flooding the fields? Because although the 2008 LORS talks about shared adversity the EAA is federally protected by an older and more important document.
The ACOE in not a teacher picking favorites, they are the military taking orders from Congress.
First, the Corps would build a levee from northwest Palm Beach County to the south of Dade County along the east coast, thereby preventing flooding fromthe Everglades to the coastal communities. Second, the Corps would modify control facilities and levees around Lake Okeechobee in order to create more water storage, and it would increase the discharge capacity from the lake in order to prevent flooding. Third, the Corps would create three water conservation areas in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties for water storage. Fourth, the Corps would construct canals, levees, and pumping stations to protect 700,000 acres of agriculture south of Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach, Hendry, and Glades counties, known as the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). Fifth, the Corps would build canals and water control structures to handle drainage in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, and St. Lucie counties.
This bolded section is the key, this is why Rae Ann Wessel’s question rung so loudly in the silence of the ACOE call. For the ACOE, it is “understood,” that no matter the case, even with LORS, and in spite of “shared adversity,” that 700,000 acres of agriculture fields, south of Lake Okeechobee is to be protected from flooding destruction.
But as we all know, nothing lasts forever.
Just like other laws of our great county, some do, indeed over time, become outdated for the times. Things change. Among other issues, in 1950, when the Central and South Flood Project law was structured and voted upon to protect the crops in the EAA as part of flood control 2.81 million people lived in Florida. Today, 20 million people reside here. In the old days, the discharges did not have the impact as they do today, the rivers were healthier, and the Lake, it wasn’t so polluted. But now, seventy years later, water quality, pollution, and human health issues have risen to a point of question. “In emergency situations”, is discharging cyanobacteria water from Lake Okeechobee into the now heavily populated areas along the estuaries to prevent flooding of the Everglades Agricultural Area in the state’s best interest, or is it archaic, like the T-Rex in the room?
It might be time to re-evaluate South Florida’s greatest taboo.
Ed and I have just returned from vacation. Ironically leaving June 28th, the day the ACOE announced a nine-day reprieve due to algae in Lake Okeechobee; and returning July 8, the day before the ACOE may open S-308 into the St Lucie River once again.
It was a great trip and the weather was excellent.
Ed was our pilot, and we flew with stops from Stuart to Michigan. It was remarkable to sit in the airplane and see the land below me ~ever changing from swampland, to farmland, to cites, to forest, to mountains, to rivers, and peppered with hundreds of lakes….
When we finally approached the Great Lakes Region, I was looking for the algae I had read so much about, and yes, there were some lakes turned green. But not in the vast northern waters of Lake Michigan, or Lake Huron, these lakes were deep mirrors of blue.
“The water here looks like the Bahamas,” Ed noted. We both looked in wonder at their hue.
Sometimes, I awoke at night, thinking of home. Thinking about how there is nothing like it, in spite of the many wonders of our great county. In spite of the beautiful, blue, icy waters of Lake Michigan.
On the way home to Stuart, I asked Ed if we could fly inland over Lake Okeechobee just to see. It was midday and the clouds had popped up and I knew we’d have to do my least favorite thing, fly though them. As the turbulence engulfed the airplane, I closed my eyes and prayed. And then finally, as always, we were through.
The lake opened up before us like an ocean.
I could clearly see the algae at about three thousand feet. It was visible roughly a mile off the lake’s east coast out into the lake for as far as the eye could see. Ed flew west and then circled around. The green masses of algae had been pushed into geometric designs by the wind, and they were everywhere. We flew for miles over the middle of the lake and beyond. To my surprise, the repetitive, endless, formations of cyanobacteria caused something unexpected to happen. Rather than my usual disgust, or anger for the destruction of the St Lucie, I felt myself begin to tear-up. “This poor lake,” I thought to myself. “I know you were once so beautiful even mythical; what have we done to you?
I wiped the tear from my eye, so sad for what is happening to the waters of my beloved Florida. Ed turned the plane, and we headed home…
S-308 algae was visible about a mile off the east coast of the lake and on and off, sometimes heavy, inside of the S-308 structure and in the C-44 canal to S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam.
S-80 was open and algae could be seen going through the gates from the C-44 canal
Home at last. Sewall’s Point Park River Kidz FDOT recycled sign art
If this is true, and with Ed Killer posting, I believe it is, the ACOE will start releasing again Monday, 6-25-18. I did not know this until I read his post.
Today, my husband Ed and I were flying other people over Florida as usual, and during our flight I took this video expecting maybe some algae in C-44 but instead also found the gigantic bloom against the gates of S-308 in Lake Okeechobee leading into C-44/SLR.
So I wrote on Facebook:
I am so over this, but cannot fail to report. According to Ed Killer ACOE will start discharging from Lake O tomorrow in spite of Governor’s Emergency Order. Look at this algae mess waiting at gates of Port Mayaca. Write ACOE’s LTC Jennifer Reynolds and politely ask for ACOE to wait and to have DEP test again: email@example.com (JTL-S-308 video taken 6-24-15 at 12pm) #toxic2018
As Monday is tomorrow, and I fly to DC with the River Kidz tomorrow, I am posting this now. I truly believe considering the circumstances, that the ACOE should refrain from discharging at S-308 or S-80. And the state’s FDEP (Florida Department of Environmental Protection) should have this water tested, again, as bloom has changed.
To just dump this on the people of Martin County along the St Lucie River is a crime.